I have never gotten on too well with other moms. I mean, I don’t hate them or anything, but I definitely keep my distance. At the park, I’m that loner mom on a bench reading a book, or micromanaging my kids playing on the big toy. I overhear their conversations and think, my god, we have nothing in common. Which isn’t true, of course. I probably have more in common with them than I do with any of my friends. I definitely have more in common with them than I do the other baristas at the coffee shop. But somehow, they feel like a different breed to me.
I am a mom, yes, but I have never embraced my momness to the extent of it becoming my defining characteristic. I can’t imagine standing next to another mom in workout clothes talking about potty training. If she was in workout clothes, I’d want to talk about running or yoga. If she bought a new car, I’d want to talk about that. Sure, I’m fine to hear about kids’ accomplishments and hilarious things they say, but the buck stops there. I don’t want to hear about the nitty-gritty details in the trenches of parenthood – the yelling, the dirty diapers, the sleepless nights. I have my own experiences like that. I’d like something a little more exciting, a little less mommish.
But despite my cool and aloof distance, a mom at the park approached me today. She just sidled right up to me, completely oblivious to my keep your distance aura. “Are they both yours?” she asked, which I found a bizarre question, considering there are only two of them. My mom used to get that question a lot, but that was with four of us, which made sense because no one in their right mind has more than two children (or one, perhaps). “Yes,” I answered, thinking my briefness would send her back to the bench she came from. It didn’t.
“How is that,” she continued, “having two?”
“It’s awful,” I replied. “Should have stopped at one,”
Although negativity usually turns people off immediately, this lady was undetoured.
“That’s good to hear from someone who has two,” she replied, not skipping a beat. And then she went on to tell me she has been wondering if another child is a good idea. Her boyfriend wants one, but he’s adopted and they have no idea what his genetic background is. And he is much older than her. Does he really want to be the old dad?
She amused me, so I participated enough to hear more. Words poured out of her as if no one has listened to her in a year. She is a stay-at-home mom, which gives her cabin fever, especially since she doesn’t have a car. This park is the only place they go, since it’s within walking distance (they live in those apartments a half mile away). The boy’s dad is out of the picture, but her new boyfriend takes over father duties.
She was youngish (24), but seemed much younger (16). She asked me if I also was a stay-at-home mom and I nodded. “How do you find time to do your hair?” she asked, mistaking my bobby pin for hair styling. “I haven’t showered in three days,” I admitted. At that, she relaxed and smiled and suddenly we related. Because before that moment, she thought of me the way I thought of all the other moms I’ve seen at parks. We bitched for a moment about other moms at parks, how bitchy and stuck-up they all were with their barky voices and designer sunglasses.
Then I added, “don’t let them intimidate you; none of us have this parenting thing figured out. We’re all just doing the best we can in our own way,” speaking more to myself than to her. And then, as if on cue, Holden threw sand in her son’s eyes. I hustled the children off shamefully, apologizing to this other mother deep in the trenches. Although I have some souvenirs of stability that she doesn’t (a car and a house and a husband), it was clear that I don’t have anything any more figured out than she does.